Shakespeare’s will goes on display in Stratford

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Will of William; Shakespeare; 25 March 1616. Proved 22 June 1616.

SHAKESPEARE’S last will and testament has returned to Stratford-upon-Avon for the first time in 400 years and will go on public display today (Saturday 16th July) for three weeks.

The documents are on loan to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust from the National Archives in Kew, London and can be seen in the trust’s Treasures exhibition.

The will is best known in the public consciousness for Shakespeare’s apparently insulting provision of his “second best bed” to his wife, Anne Hathaway.

But as Dr Katy Mair, early modern records specialist at The National Archives explained, there would have been nothing particularly unusual about this because the bulk of his legacy – including his house at New Place in Stratford – would automatically have gone to his heir (in this case his elder daughter, Susanna).

In other words “the best bed” would have come with Susanna’s inheritance of New Place. But in any event, Shakespeare made sure Anne was looked after. “It’s also implicit in the will that she will be provided for for the rest of her life,” said Dr Mair.

For a full report see the next issue of the Herald.